This is the reality of the Eastern Conference — you don’t want to be the seven or eight seed. You don’t want to face the Bulls or the Heat in the first round. That promises a short stay in the postseason.
The Knicks are currently the eight seed. The easiest route out of that hole is to leapfrog the Celtics and pass the 76ers, who lead the Atlantic Division but are only four games ahead of the Knicks. (Don’t look behind you Knicks, but the Bucks are just half a game back as the nine seed and have won 6 games in a row.)
Win the Atlantic and you are the automatic fourth seed (at worst) and avoid real trouble until the second round.
So the Knicks game against the 76ers Wednesday night is huge for them — win and they are three games back, something that can be made up in the 19 games that remain (although the 76ers have the easier schedule the rest of the way). Lose, fall five games back, and that dream is pretty much shot.
This four game winning streak of the Knicks — all by 14 points or more — has inspired dreams in New York because of the way they are doing it: sharing the ball, playing hard on defense, executing. All the things they didn’t do under Mike D’Antoni. Carmelo Anthony all but admitted he is trying harder under Woodson. We could discuss what that says about ‘Melo as a leader but fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter — right now it is working on the court. These Knicks are actually fun to watch. And seem to be having fun again.
Wednesday night is the measuring stick for the Woodson era — the 76ers blew the Knicks out of the water the last time these two played (March 11, the fifth loss in the Knicks six-game losing streak that led to D’Antoni leaving). It was one of those typically sad Knicks efforts where the team seemed to go through the motions without passion. Things are radically different now.
The Knicks are 0-6 on the second night of a back-to-back when the other team has rest (which is the case Wednesday night). But the Knicks have been breaking all kinds of trends lately.
Break this one and they have a chance of getting out of the 8 seed, getting out of the way of the two best teams in the conference. They get a real chance at advancing out of the first round.
Lose and the Knicks will find themselves in a fight with the Bucks just to make the playoffs and get the joy of the Bulls or Heat in the first round.
It’s a big game for the Knicks hopes Wednesday.
Charles Oakley might not be welcome at Knicks games in New York.
Knicks games in Cleveland? I suspect he’ll get a different reception.
Ian Begley of ESPN:
Charles Oakley plans to attend New York’s road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, the former Knicks player told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
Oakley, a Cleveland native, has grown close with the Cavaliers. LeBron James particularly backed Oakley in his dispute with Knicks owner Jim Dolan.
To be clear, Oakley’s feud is more with Dolan than the Knicks, Oakley’s former team. So, assuming Dolan doesn’t attend tonight’s game, this won’t into the fireworks we saw at the last Knicks game Oakley attended.
It’ll just be a chance for more people outside Dolan’s payroll to embrace Oakley.
If your goal over the next few months is to make your star player happy, build a contender around him, and convince him he wants to be here as a free agent in 2018, the Pacers got off to a rocky start Thursday.
George had been linked to the Celtics, while teams such as Denver and Atlanta made runs at him. It was a swirling vortex of rumors with a lot of “will the Pacers pull the trigger or not” intrigue.
What was it like to be in the middle of that? George wouldn’t exactly know, he was learning of things when we were, and he sounded a little ticked when talking about it to the media Thursday.
Those rumors you hear about George going to the Lakers as a free agent in 2018 have some real weight behind them, much of the league thinks that could well happen (2018 is a long way off, but other teams that would like to get in the conversation think that’s PG’s intention).
The Pacers need to change his mind, and it sounds like the first step was in the wrong direction.
The Hawks wanted a stretch four to back up Paul Millsap and likely spend time with Dwight Howard.
Realizing its roster lacked an adequate one, Atlanta traded for Ersan Ilyasova.
The stretch four the Hawks already had — Mike Scott — has barely played this seasonand looked lousy when he has, shooting just 4-for-27 on 3-pointers ((15%).
The Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club has acquired a protected second-round draft pick from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Mike Scott, the draft rights to Cenk Akyol and cash considerations, it was announced today by President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach Mike Budenholzer.
Money was the driving force behind this trade.
The Suns can count Scott’s entire salary ($3,333,334) toward the floor while paying only the prorated portion remaining ($941,177). So, Phoenix saves the difference ($2,392,157) and gets whatever cash Atlanta sent.
Presumably, the Hawks included an amount less than they would’ve had to pay just to waive Scott themselves ($3,333,334).
The Suns can undertake a reclamation project on Scott. Or they could just waive him. The 28-year-old looks pretty wayward.
Phoenix also gets Akyol as another nearly valueless piece. The window for Akyol, the No. 59 pick in 2005, to join the NBA is rapidly closing, if it hasn’t already. He’ll turn 30 in April.
Even in the likely event Scott and Akyol amount to nothing for the Suns, they still get the financial benefits. And so do the Hawks.
Has legendary Lakers point guard Magic Johnson found someone to follow in his footsteps?
Almost certainly not.
But, in his second trade with the Rockets since taking over the Lakers’ front office this week, Johnson found a point guard to take a flier on: Tyler Ennis, who was exchanged for Marcelo Huertas.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired guard Tyler Ennis from the Houston Rockets, league sources told The Vertical.
The Lakers sent guard Marcelo Huertas to Houston in exchange for Ennis, sources said. The Rockets will waive Huertas.
Ennis was the No. 18 pick in the 2014 draft. But he has just looked over his head in three NBA seasons with the Suns, Bucks and Rockets. There’s a reason the Lakers got him so cheap. It’s unlikely he’ll stick in the NBA, and D'Angelo Russell is clearly still the franchise point guard.
Still, point guards tend to develop late, and Ennis is just 22. There’s always a chance he’ll rediscover the court vision he displayed at Syracuse.
The Lakers will hope he plays better — just not too much better. Because his fourth-year team-option was declined, they can re-sign him for a starting salary up to just $3,066,713 (what he would’ve earned, with the rookie-scale adjustment under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, if his option had been exercised).
Also in the final guaranteed year of his contract, Huertas is making $233,880 more than Ennis. That’s not much, but if the Rockets were going to waive Ennis anyway — this trade suggests they were — why not save that money?
The 33-year-old Huertas likely drops out of the NBA. He already fell out of the Lakers’ rotation.
And with that spot open and a little extra money to spend — including more from the K.J. McDaniels trade — Houston can be a player in the post-buyout market as it revs up for a playoff run.